Did you know that there is a direct correlation between the status of your gut health and your hormones? The gut microbiome plays a key role in your health. Its primary functions affect your metabolism, immune system, and hormone balance. This article will discuss primarily how gut health affects your hormones and what you can do to help keep everything in check.
The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea found within our digestive tract. The bacteria living in us are not invaders but helpful colonizers. They help digest our food, regulate our immune system, protect against evasive intruders, and produce vitamins B12, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin K.
Poor gut health can result in having a “leaky gut.” This means that your gut lining is damaged and can no longer serve as an adequate barrier. The smaller pores become larger and unwanted things like undigested food particles, harmful bacteria, and gluten are able to enter your system causing significant damage to your health.
Both males and females produce hormones. The most commonly known are estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine and thyroxine. These hormones circulate in the bloodstream binding to receptor sites within different organs and tissues. Once they reach your liver, they are broken down, deactivated and sent to the intestine to exit your body via stool. If there is harmful bacteria in your gut, it can create an enzyme that reactivates the hormones. For example, the enzyme beta-glucuronidase causes estrogen to reactivate in your gut. The problem with reactivation of hormones is that they then re-enter your body and cause excess levels which can lead to an array of symptoms including headaches, low libido, weight gain, acne, uterine fibroids and chronic diseases such as cancers of the breast, ovaries or prostate.
Having a poor microbiome can lead to hormonal imbalances. This is when your hormones do not communicate properly and your body makes too much or too little of any given hormone. Having even one hormone off balance can cause a domino effect in the body. For example, a thyroid hormone imbalance can lead to a cortisol imbalance, which in turn causes various symptoms like fatigue, mood swings, digestive issues and unexplained weight loss or weight gain. All of our hormones are closely interconnected so the symptoms of any imbalance can look very similar.
The most common symptoms of hormones functioning improperly are:
Xenoestrogens are a category of chemicals known as “endocrine disruptors” that prevent hormones from functioning normally. Our bodies release hormones that signal different tissues with instructions on what to do. When these chemicals enter our bodies, they are able to mimic our natural hormones by blocking or binding to hormone receptors and leaving hormones to circulate with no binding ability. Xenoestrogens come in both natural and synthetic forms and affect estrogen hormones. They are found in various materials such as pesticides, metals, additives or contaminants in food as well as BPA and contaminated water.
Junk food affects your hormones. Processed foods often contain xenoestrogens like preservatives and Bisphenol A (BPA) as well as phthalates, which can lower testosterone. These harmful substances can enter food during its preparation or packaging. For example, there might be contamination from plastic gloves and conveyor belts. The heat from cooking can also make it easier for chemicals to enter these processed goods.
Commercially sold fruits and vegetables that are not organic are often contaminated with pesticides.
Many of the chemicals used in these pesticides are endocrine disruptors. They include insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Endocrine disrupting pesticides have been shown to damage reproductive and sexual development. They depend on several factors such as gender, age and diet. But age has resulted to be a specifically sensitive factor. Fetuses, infants and children show greater susceptibility than adults.
Non-organic produce isn’t the only culprit to be aware of. According to the FDA, “since the 1950s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a number of steroid hormone drugs for use in beef cattle, chickens and sheep, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and their synthetic versions”. This is why it is important to buy organic, grass-fed, hormone free meat. It may cost more, but in the long run, it’s cheaper than the effect it can have on your health.
By now, you’re probably wondering, how do I balance my hormones? Luckily, the best way to treat your hormonal imbalance is through diet. Apart from avoiding xenoestrogen foods, there are certain foods that will help renew your gut microbiome. Probiotic foods contain good live microorganisms that can help boost your microbiome naturally.
These include the following fermented foods:
I also recommend ION Gut Support The science behind ION* lies in strengthening the cellular integrity of your body’s barriers, including not just your gut, but your sinuses and skin as well.
In addition to this, it’s of the utmost importance to eat healthier in general. Remember to eat healthy fats and nutrient-dense foods. You should strive to eat different colored foods in order to take advantage of different nutrient intake. Always choose organic, grass-fed and hormone free when you can. If you have no idea where to start, this blog contains meal ideas and more information on developing healthy eating habits.
Another way to help your gut flora is by taking probiotics. Probiotics contain living microbiota that can be consumed in pill or powder form. It’s important to note that not all probiotics are created equal. Many probiotic supplements on the market contain bacteria and microbial species that don’t readily survive the highly acidic environments of the stomach, making them ineffective. It is important to get the right strains, preferably a broad spectrum probiotic containing live bacteria. Also note that if taking antibiotics, it’s important to take your probiotics at least two hours apart. The best probiotics for hormonal imbalance that I recommend can be found here and here.
There are other supplements to help balance hormones:
As with all supplements, always purchase from reputable suppliers. Pay careful attention to the benefits versus the sale price.
Your hormones play a big role in how your body functions. Without a healthy gut microbiome, your hormones can’t do their job properly. Remember that you are what you eat, and that a healthy, clean diet can change your life for the better. While you can’t necessarily completely balance your hormones in a week, you can start taking the steps to heal your gut today and start feeling better in a week. Feel free to schedule a complimentary 15 min call to get started. If you are a patient, you can order any of these items in your patient portal. I am also happy to answer any of your questions via the portal.
Wishing you all a safe and healthy start to 2022!